Track 3: Conservation of modern and post-modern heritage
In June 2018 the authors completed the project: “Conservation of a 20th-Century Fresco: Hatian Massacre, 1937, by Dominican artists José Ramírez Conde and Roberto Flores”, funded by a grant from the U.S. Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation Program. The aim of this project was to preserve and install this very large mural inside the Memorial Museum of the Dominican Resistance, in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—, with minimum intervention to both cultural patrimonies.
The artists painted this fresco in 1974 on a concrete wall in a private home in a suburb of Santo Domingo. The subject matter depicts the killing of Haitian civilians by orders of Dominican dictator Rafael L. Trujillo in the Dominican Republic northwest, near the Haitian border. In 2013 the mural was almost destroyed when the house where it was located would be demolished. It was spared thanks to an improvised rescue in which the wall was cut away and moved across the street to a neighbor’s yard, until it could be moved to the museum. As a result, the mural suffered extensive damage and was not only in need of major conservation treatment, but also of a new home that would allow for public viewing of this work of historic and political significance.
This project involved two cultural patrimonies that had to be taken into account: the mural—which has multiple values attributed to it—, and the Colonial museum building, in a zone legally protected by international treaties. As custodian of both these patrimonies, the Memorial Museum of the Dominican Resistance has the responsibility to preserve them both, and therefore, demanded from the project teams that they devise solutions that would respect the integrity of each.
Dominican paintings conservator Hilda Abreu de Utermohlen was the Project Conservator, and U.S. conservator Viviana Dominguez, acted as the Lead Mural Conservator, heading an international conservation team, assisted by Haitian and Dominican technicians. In this presentation the authors describe the move, installation and conservation treatment carried out. The mural’s large size and weight in relation to the narrow entrance and small museum spaces posed technical, logistical, and financial challenges that called for a comprehensive project and special funding. The protection and preservation of these two patrimonies—the building and the mural—had to be considered, and the impact this had on the decision-making processes will be highlight in this presentation. The creative minds of a team of architects, engineers and conservators worked together to solve problems in transportation method, allowing to move the mural and bring it to the building in one piece, reinforcement of the foundation, and design of frames to install the large wall in its small new location.